EU and Belarus discussed effects of the new Customs Union

On 25-26 January, Deputy Director General for External Trade Peter Balas of the European Commission paid a visit to Minsk. He met Belarusian authorities, including deputy Prime Minister Kobyakov, deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Yevdochenko and deputy Minister of Economy Tur, to discuss the state of economic-trade relations after the introduction of the Customs Union between Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan. The EU side particularly emphasised its concerns about the negative effects caused by the new import regime in force since 1 January 2010. The EU side urged Belarus, as a member of the new Customs Union, to support the removal of the adverse measures introduced by the Customs Union that brought about the increased tariffs for numerous important EU export products as well as encouraged Belarus to resist the protectionist pressure by refraining from imposing new de-liberalisation measures.

Both sides agreed about the negative effects of Russia’s sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures imposed on their agricultural exports and the need to use such measures strictly in line with the existing international standards.

Reacting to the concerns expressed by Belarus on suspension of the preferential (GSP) treatment for Belarusian exports to the EU, Mr. Balas confirmed that Belarus has the possibility to create the necessary conditions to restore such a preferential regime.

This visit also served as an opportunity to discuss the process of Belarus' accession to the WTO. The EU side sought to better understand the recent developments in Belarus' economic and trade policies, including the effects of the introduction of the Customs Union rules, and emphasised the need to receive from Belarus the updated information thereof. Mr Balas expressed also his hope that the ongoing reform process and the introduction of liberalisation measures of economic and trade policies in Belarus would be speeded up. This would contribute to the development of the bilateral trade relations, as well as to the WTO accession process.